Richard Goldstein on the Front Lines With Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol, Abby Hoffman and More

Cover of Pearl album

Richard Goldstein's journey is a closely observed, fervently lived “I was there” account of the music, the politics, the sex, the drugs, and the poetry in rock lyrics.

Another Little Piece of My Heart: My Life of Rock and Revolution in the '60s

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 225 pages
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2015-04

Back when the '60s became "the Sixties", the Village Voice, an alternative weekly New York City newspaper, was the place to find out what was happening, or where a “happening” was, and Richard Goldstein was there to explain. He was the very first genuine rock critic for a major publication, before rock ‘n’ roll or rock music was considered a mass-culture art form worthy of notice.

In his touching, funny, deeply felt memoir, Goldstein leads us like a Bronx pied piper from his working-class home in a public housing project to the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, from Haight-Ashbury to Monterey Pop, from the “Good Vibrations” of southern California to the violence outside the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention.

Another Little Piece of My Heart had me laughing out loud on the first page. It is 1962; Goldstein is 18 years old. About to start at Hunter College in the Bronx, he says he’ll be “the first member of my family to learn the difference between Hegel and a bagel.”

As a member of Goldstein’s generation from another outer borough (Brooklyn) who similarly attended a no-tuition college in the City University of New York system, and who similarly was a bookworm learning about German philosophers as well as rock ‘n’ roll, I felt a surge of empathy. But when taking the subway from my bourgeois neighborhood to the Village and its implied freedom, I did not, like Goldstein, have to carry my sandals in a paper bag. He did -- for fear of getting beat up on route from the Bronx by the “guys who guard the gates of masculinity.”

Goldstein’s evocation of that era -- now a half century in the rear view mirror -- is spot-on and visceral. His parents might not have been hip to existentialism or the Beatles, but they were good secular Jewish liberals, up to a point. His mother “instructed me to call colored people Negroes, adding ‘Remember they’re human too.’ This wasn’t exactly the Gettysburg Address, but it was a departure from the spirit of the project.” His father, a postal worker, worried that Negroes would elbow their way past the Jews up the middle class ladder.

Goldstein quickly aligned himself with the ideals of the Civil Rights movement, as well as Pop Art and Andy Warhol, along with pop music. A true pioneer, he created a column in the Village Voice called “Pop Eye”. His journey is a closely observed, fervently lived “I was there” account of the drugs, the politics, the sex the music, and the poetry in rock lyrics.

When he covered one of the pivotal protests – the takeover of Columbia University by students rallying against expansionist, racist plans by that institution – he noted that after hundreds were chased by cops he saw “dozens of sandals littering the sidewalk. Students had jumped out of their shoes to get away.” Sandals now had political as well as cultural currency.

The memoir tells of Goldstein’s encounters with such seminal figures as Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson, Abby Hoffman, Susan Sontag and others whose ideas infiltrated the minds of his generation. He also introduces an important editor, Clay Felker, the man from the Midwest who helped birth the “new journalism”. Felker edited the Sunday section of the New York Herald Tribune, then the stand-alone magazine New York, and eventually for a brief time, the Village Voice itself. “A man of monumental enthusiasms,” Felker had the good sense to recognize Goldstein’s place in the vanguard of change and gave him a chance to chronicle it.

Goldstein owns up to being wrong about the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album (he didn’t love it), and wrong about a track on the Doors debut album, “Light My Fire”, but he was right about a lot of bands, like the Beach Boys. Among his adventures, he hung out with them on a trip from Los Angeles to the desert. Goldstein’s wife Judith told him later than Dennis Wilson had hit on her but was too stoned to do much. Driving back from Palm Springs, a clearly high Dennis suddenly exclaimed “Whoa, the road is doing weird things.” In the car, Goldstein thought to himself: “if I survive this I promise never to do drugs again.”

As the title of the book makes clear, one figure meant a lot to millions, and especially to Goldstein: Janis Joplin. Hearing her sing at the Monterey Pop festival in California during the “Summer of Love”, 1967, he writes: “her voice stunned me with its primal drive… Hearing her… was like meeting my most guarded self. Her voice was the liquid inside the balloon that I struggled to prevent from spilling out.” He identified with her neediness and recognized the craft behind the shriek. Eventually, they grew to be sort-of friends. Late one night he took her to Ratner’s, a Lower East Side Jewish deli that was a New York institution. Then they strolled the empty streets at dawn.

Still, Goldstein is careful to show how no writer can really be a true peer of any huge pop star without becoming a sycophant. He is terrific, too, at describing how confusing it was back then for traditionally trained reporters (he had attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism) to cover rock and revolt. He was taught to distrust hype, but felt great enthusiasm for the hyped and the rebels. Yet he was supposed to be objective.

At the Village Voice, “the detachment I was so proud of the mark of my rationality in the face of mental goo, was beginning to seem like the greatest of all illusions. There was no way to justify remaining outside the battle.” By the time he faced police brutality in Chicago, and the trial of the Chicago Seven, he could no longer hide behind a press card. Just as important, the Village Voice owners would not provide its staff with health insurance. He quit, and went to Felker’s New York for a salary and benefits. He did return as arts editor to the Village Voice only after Felker and his backers took over the newspaper.

Because this is a book about the '60s, Goldstein's valuable later writing on AIDS and gay activism is not included. He does talk about his current gig, teaching at the City University’s Hunter College. Once, in his seminar on the Sixties. he played John Fogerty’s “Bad Moon Rising” for his class. A student who had heard the song as a child said he “thought the refrain went, ‘There’s a bathroom on the right.’”

I laughed out loud again. Truth is, such moments make writers like me (not to mention Creedence Clearwater Revival fans) feel old. I’m just glad Goldstein has put the “story behind the story” in a real, print hardcover book while such Luddite leftovers still exist.







Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Jennifer Kelly

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.